Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Burn Up The Phone Lines

Make your voices heard today on Capitol Hill. Let your representatives know how you feel about Obamacare.

Call 877-762-8762, and ask for your Democratic representative.

For more on what Republicans are doing to stop this unconstitutional act, see this link. To see where your representative stands, consult this list.


Dan Seifert said...

What's the basis for calling the proposed healthcare reform unconstitutional? Seems to me that the government has the right to regulate healthcare just like any other form of interstate commerce.

Tami said...

With all due respect, Dan, you need to go back and find out what Interstate Commerce is. Then you'll realize what an absurd question it is that you have just asked.

Dan Seifert said...

Fair enough, so let's start with the basics. Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution says that Congress shall have the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."

More practically, this means that the federal government can oversee business transactions between states to make sure they aren't being protectionist or otherwise abusive (e.g., Iowa levying a huge tax on non-Iowan corn, which causes Idaho to do the same thing with potatoes).

Now, with regard to healthcare, the two arguments against applying the Commerce Clause generally are:

1) Healthcare is something that happens between a doctor and a patient in a specific place at a specific time, so it doesn't cross state lines, making the Commerce Clause inapplicable.

2) Health insurance is already state-specific, meaning you can't buy it across state lines, and making the Commerce Clause inapplicable.

Rationale #1 is definitely the weaker (and less popular), so let's dismiss that one first. While the actual transaction may take place in a specific place, many (even most) of the actions leading up to that transaction occurred across state lines. The patient (or the doctor) may have crossed state lines to make the appointment/procedure happen. The doctor may be licensed to practice in multiple states, making the regulation of his practice a Federal concern. The insurance company ultimately paying the doctor may be based out of state, or may be a Federal entity (e.g., Meidcaid) - again, making the transaction a Federal concern.

Reason #2 is a bit more complex, but still relatively straightforward to dismiss. The bottom line here is twofold: insurance of many types (life, casualty, auto, home, etc) is already sold across state lines, and is Federally regulated. Second, it's a lot like the corn and potatoes example above: it should not be the case that a person could end up having to pay an exorbitantly higher price for a product (especially one as critical as healthcare) simply because of which state they live in.

Anthem Blue Cross of California recently announced they would be raising their premiums for self-employed individuals by 39%. This means that for every $100 I'm paying for my healthcare here in MA, they're paying at least $139 for the exact same service - again, just because of where they live. That's exactly the kind of abusive practice that the Commerce Clause was meant to prevent.

Finally, I know that some folks argue the healthcare bill violates the Constitution by requiring Americans to buy insurance - some have even said that the government has never required this before. The main counterexample that comes to mind there is auto insurance. While that's mostly a state requirement, the logic is the same - you and I are okay with everyone having to have auto insurance, because we don't want to be left holding the bill if someone irresponsible (and uninsured) hits us and doesn't have the money to pay for it.

Likewise, I don't want to be constantly paying the bill (in the form of higher state and federal taxes) for people who get themselves sick and then have to rely on very expensive ER care because they don't have insurance.